This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapter of this book. The book describes the ailments seventeenth-century English people had and the many ways they dealt with these ailments. The book investigates popular attitudes regarding illness and medical practitioners. Doctors were expected and seen to be totally in control of the experience of illness. However, it is impossible to relate illness and medicine to its social context without recognising the significance of the sufferer's feelings, attitudes and behaviour. Thus, medical historians increasingly study the experiences of both healers and sufferers, examining the social impact of epidemics, gathering information about the provision of medical care, and re-examining the development of medical occupations. People wanted to believe in 'modern medicine' because this belief offered an irresistible combination of confidence in the future and relief from personal responsibility for the health and illnesses of themselves and their loved ones.